I was not surprised to hear yesterday that someone is taking on the New World (Australia, Chile, California) for global wine dominance in the value tier. After all, we’re in a recessionary time when all the cards are being reshuffled and recut, and who knows who will emerge on top. Nor was it surprising to learn who the potential usurper is: France’s Languedoc-Roussillon! All the 2,700 winemakers in that huge district — which covers 35% of France’s vineyard acreage — will now be able “to label their wine for the first time with the grape variety, vintage and location.” That will enable them to compete in the New World, where consumers look for wines with varietal names, like Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. That’s why a top Languedoc official said, “It will help us a lot with the American market.”
That’s hundreds and hundreds of millions of bottles of wine, and a lot of it is going to cost under $10, giving stern competition to inexpensive California brands and New World imports.
Let’s back up and get philosophical. Since the recession began, we’ve assumed that the most expensive wines are in trouble. They are, but that doesn’t mean the bottom of the market is safe. You have only to look at Australia to see that. Nobody knows if and when the recession will lift and recovery return. But we know this: this announcement from the Languedoc-Roussillon is a shot across California’s bow, a warning signal that powerful interests in the European Union are moving in for their share of the loot.
Announcing the first ever Wine Bloggers Conference on Wine Writing
The world already has a Wine Bloggers Conference and a Wine Writers Conference, but what we don’t have is a Wine Bloggers Conference on Wine Writing (or WBCoWW, pronounced “web-cow”). I’m not sure how this ended up falling between the cracks, but it did. Probably because everybody’s so darned busy blogging, tweeting and monetizing, not to mention going to conferences, that nobody noticed.
Why a Wine Bloggers Conference on Wine Writing? Why now? And why me? Answers:
1. Because it’s needed.
2. If not now, when?
3. It’s my karma, which was never all that great.
I doubt if we can get Meadowood again — too pricey, and besides, the proctologists have it booked the third week of July (I checked), which is the only time I can make it. Even if we could afford a little room, I wouldn’t want to be sharing that Meadowood campus at night on those dark, creepy paths with a bunch of probing ass doctors, especially if I’ve been drinking, which I will. There are several AAA-approved motels in the Vallejo/AmCan area we could probably afford. And speakers. We need speakers. 1WineDude, are you free the week of July 15? I know you’re crazy busy, and we’ll need to book you months in advance. Have your people get in touch with mine. Alder Yarrow, any chance you’ll chair the panel on “How to chair a panel”? There may be a syndication deal. I think I can get you Jancis Robinson, or, at least, a Jancis lookalike (I know one from San Francisco). Parker said nyah, nyah, but he didn’t say nyah, nyah, nyah your mother wears combat boots, so maybe he’ll come. (Memo to Morton Leslie: please prepare for me a draft of winery-media relations as they have developed from the late 18th century into the digital age.) There’s some hope the Coppolas will come. Every wine conference needs a little glamor, which is why God created Karen MacNeil.
For our breakout session I suggest a rousing game of Truth or Dare, libations to be provided by whichever winery underwrites web-cow with the most funding. In this game, players ask embarrassing questions of each other, and challenge each other to do embarrassing things. For example, Heather John might dare Charlie Olken to lapdance in a bikini with Eric Asimov while blind tasting without spilling a drop onto Eric’s khakis, and The Hosemaster (should he attend the festivities, which is not at all clear) might raise the ante by daring all the bloggers to rate CO’s performance on a 100-point scale, or else risk having Charlie lapdance on them. (Try not to visualize.) It’s great fun, and could give new meaning to the word “Gewurztraminer.” By this time we should all be relaxed and harmonized enough to attend our second panel, which Jim Laube has graciously agreed to come out of hiding and chair. (Memo to self: Does he still look like his old WS picture? Find out.) It is entitled, “What would happen to the 100-point system if all the 100-point critics in the world suddenly disappeared, the way all the women did in Philip Wylie’s 1951 novel, ‘The Disappearance’”? When Jim proposed this topic, I thought it was a little un-P.C., but it does win the award for the world’s longest panel title, and should garner lots of media coverage, especially in Cigar Aficienado. It also raises the issue of: If Tish were armed with weapons of mass destruction, would he use them and, if so, upon whom? My personal opinion is that the 100 point system will not die with the death of its critics, but will long outlive them; and, in fact, numerically rate their demises. As long as I’m still here to participate in the debate, I’m content.